Building A True Unix Keyboard


compact keyboards that do away with a third of the keys you would usually find on a normal-sized keyboard are all the rage now, but for [jonhiggs], they weren’t good enough. There is a long tradition of Unix shortcuts these compact keyboards don’t pay attention to – CTRL-A being the Home key, and CTRL-D being the Page Down key. To fix this horrible oversight of Unix history, [jon] tore apart one of these compact keyboards, rewired the switch matrix, and made his own perfect keyboard.

The keyboard [jon] is using is a Filco Minila, a very nice and high quality keyboard in its own right.  After mapping out the switch matrix, [jon] wired all the switches up to a Teensy 2.0 loaded up with the TMK firmware. This is a pretty standard way of building a custom keyboard, and [jon] could have just cut a switch plate and installed panel-mount switches and wired up the matrix and diodes point to point. The case for the keyboard is constructed out of Lego.

Because this is a true, modern Unix keyboard, [jon] needed to connect this keyboard to a box running his *nix of choice. He’s doing this in the most future-retro way possible, with an Amazon EC2 instance. This project isn’t done yet, and [jon] is hoping to add an ARM dev board, an iPad Retina display, battery, and SSD, turning this into a completely homebrew laptop designed around [jon]‘s needs.

18-Channel PWM Aquarium Lights Provide Habitat-Like Life for Fish

Aquarium with variable LEDs

Whether you want to keep your fish happy or just need a good light show, this aquarium light fits the bill. It is the second iteration, but [William] calls it v1. That’s because v0 — which used a few loops of LED strips — never really met his requirements.

This build uses just six LEDs, each a 30 Watt RGB monster! To source about 350 mA for each, and to control brightness with 18-channels of pulse width modulation, he had to plan very carefully. This meant a proper aluminum project box and a beefy, fan-cooled power supply.

The driver board is his own design, and he etched a huge board to hold all of the components. Everything is driven by an Arduino Mega, which has 16 hardware PWM channels; two short of what he needed. Because of this he had to spend a bit of time figuring out how best to bit-bang the signals. But he’s putting them to good use, with fish-pleasing modes like “sunset” or the “passing rainbow” pattern which is shown in the image above.

If you need something a little less traditional why not house your fish in a computer case, complete with LED marquee for displaying data.

The Tree of 40 Fruit


[Sam Van Aken] is working on a long-term project which literally will bear fruit. Forty different kinds, in fact. The Tree of 40 Fruit is a single tree, carefully grafted to produce 40 different varieties of fruit. Growing up on a farm, [Sam] was always fascinated by the grafting process – how one living plant could be attached to another.

In 2008, [Sam] was working as a successful artist and professor in New York when he learned a 200-year-old state-run orchard was about to be demolished. The stone fruit orchard was not only a grove a trees, but a living history of man’s breeding of fruit. Many unique varieties of stone fruit – such as heirloom peaches, plums, cherries, and apricots –  only existed in this orchard.

[Sam] bought the orchard and began to document the characteristics of the trees. Color, bloom date, and harvest date were all noted in [Sam's] books. He then had the idea for a single tree which would bear multiple types of fruit. By using grafting techniques such as chip grafting, [Sam] was able to join the varieties of stone fruit tree. The process was very slow going. Grafts performed one year must survive through the winter before they grow the following spring.

Throughout the process, [Sam] kept careful diagrams of each graft. He planned the tree out so the fruit harvest wouldn’t be boring. Anyone who has a fruit tree tends to give away lots of fruit – because after a couple of weeks, they’re sick of eating one crop themselves! With [Sam's] tree, It’s possible to have a nectarine with breakfast, a plum with lunch, and snack on almonds before dinner,  all from the same tree. The real beauty is in the spring. [Sam's] tree blossoms into an amazing array of pinks, purples and whites. A living sculpture created by an artist with a bit of help from Mother Nature.

Click past the break for [Sam's] TED talk.

[Read more...]

Cloning Tektronix Application Modules


Tektronix’s MSO2000 line of oscilloscopes are great tools, and with the addition of a few ‘application modules’, can do some pretty interesting tasks: decoding serial protocols, embedded protocols like I2C and SPI, and automotive protocols like CAN and LIN. While testing out his MSO2012B, [jm] really liked the (limited time) demo of the I2C decoder, but figured it wasn’t worth the $500 price the application module sells for. No matter, because it’s just some data on a cheap 24c08 EEPROM, and with a little bit of PCB design it’s possible to build this module for under $5.

The application module Tektronix are selling is simply just a small EEPROM loaded up with an SKU. By writing this value to a $0.25 EEPROM, [jm] can enable two applications. The only problem was getting his scope to read the EEPROM: a problem easily solved with a custom board.

The board [jm] designed is available at OSH Park, with the only additional components needed being an EEPROM, a set of contacts for reading a SIM card, and a little bit of plastic glued onto the back of the board for proper spacing.

A Better Google Glass For $60 (This One Folds)

glassFor [Tony]‘s entry for The Hackaday Prize, he’s doing something we’ve all seen before – a head mounted display, connected to a Bluetooth module, displaying information from a smartphone. What we haven’t seen before is a cheap version of this tech, and a version of Google Glass that folds – you know, like every other pair of glasses on the planet – edges this project over from ‘interesting’ to ‘nearly practical’.

For the display, [Tony] is using a 0.96″ OLED connected to an Arduino Nano. This screen is directed into the wearer’s eye with a series of optics that, along with every other part of the frame, was 3D printed on a Solidoodle 2. The frame itself not only folds along the temples, but also along the bridge, making this HMD surprisingly compact when folded up.

Everything displayed on this head mounted display is controlled by  either an Android phone or a Bluetooth connection to a desktop. Using relatively simple display means [Tony] is limited to text and extremely simple graphics, but this is more than enough for some very interesting applications; reading SMS messages and checking email is easy, and doesn’t overpower the ‘duino.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

The Smart Humidor


If you’re a cigar aficionado, you know storing cigars at the proper temperature and humidity is something you just need to do. Centuries of design have gone into the simple humidor, and now, I guess, it’s time to put some electronics alongside your cigars.

The design of [dzzie]‘s smart humidor consists of an Arduino, WiFi shield, LCD + button shield, and most importantly, a DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor. In a bit of thoughtfulness, only the DHT22 is mounted inside the humidor; everything else is in an enclosure mounted outside the humidor, including a few buttons for clearing alerts and logging when water is added.

The smart humidor reads the DHT22 sensor every 20 minutes and uploads the data to a web server where useful graphs are rendered. The control box will send out an alert email to [dzzie] if the temperature or humidity is out of the desired range.

DIY Keyboard Backlighting Takes Forever, Worth It

LED Keyboard with Custom Lights

Want a back-lit keyboard? Make one yourself. Though you may not want to after seeing this build by [prodigydoo], who devoted 40 hours to upgrade his mechanical keyboard with a smattering of shiny.

No eye rolling just yet, though, because [prodigydoo's] work is a monument to meticulous craftsmanship and dedication. So what if he accidentally dropped the keyboard’s PCB and cracked it? He patched that up with a few wires in true hacker-problem-solving fashion and no one will ever know.

With the electronics “safely” removed, [prodigydoo] set about desoldering every single key switch, then carefully detaching and disassembling the Cherry MX Blues. He then inserted an LED into each switch’s backplate, reassembled them, mounted the keys back on the board, then added some current-limiting resistors and heat shrink to the circuit. [prodigydoo] cut a few necessary holes for a power switch, state indicator LEDs (Caps Lock, etc.) and some under-the-board lighting, then rounded off the build by hooking up a power supply capable of running all the lights.

No microcontroller? No RGBLEDs? We like it anyway, and it seems [prodigydoo] is glad he kept it simple. Go check out the gallery for gritty details, an explanation of the circuit, and more pictures than your family vacation album.